I heard a conversation the other day about beauty. One person said "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," while the other said "beauty is objective." Its easy to understand and agree with the first person. To say that something is beautiful in contemporary usage lends towards its personal likability. Modern art is "beautiful" to some people. Pile up some metal, throw in some bricks and viola, beauty! I seem to feel intuitively, however, that beauty is not personal fancy. Instead the second speaker may have been on to something. I don't care much for the majority of modern art, but place me in the Rocky Mountains and my heart sings for joy. I long to praise the artist. I don't know if I can explain it.
Perhaps the word "beautiful" is somewhat overused in contemporary language. Is it another word like "love" which is cheapened by everyday use? I think that in the traditional Christian sense it is used in describing things that tend toward the Divine, that is to say things that show a hint of God Himself. Take us for instance. We say that each and every human being is beautiful no matter their appearance or mental or physical abilities. How can we believe something like that if beauty is only personal preference? Surely I prefer some people to others, or I prefer one person's appearance to another but I'm still called to recognize the beauty in each individual. Why? Because we are created in the image and likeness of God. We tend to reflect the beauty of God in our very existence, in our souls.
This concept of an individuals beauty as inherent based on their likeness to God is key in understanding the loving of one's neighbors- and enemies- as commanded by Jesus. The one whom I despise is also inherently beautiful just like my wife, my mother, my best friend- or the aborted.
How is that anyone can ask for the death of a small child if it is beautiful? Its beauty, its inherent value is already given from God, it has already been created in the image and likeness of God. Who therefore has the right to remove from this earth its beating heart? Does rape steal away the beauty of God's likeness? Does incest or an unintended pregnancy remove God's glory from His created image and likeness? Is it possible that down syndrome or autism can hold back the awesomeness that causes angels to fall on their faces and tremble at the sound of His voice. Of course not.
Yes, I think I can explain it. Beauty is God. That is why we find it in the mountain peaks He has created with a whisper of His mighty voice. That is why the smallest unborn child or oldest bed-ridden man and woman is beautiful.
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might. Heaven AND earth are FULL of your glory and beauty.